Rock and Roll Parables: Queen

Rock and Roll Parables: Queen

Initially Published at Modern Mormon Men on June 3, 2014


In 1984 Queen released I Want To Break Free along with a music video that was initially banned by MTV (… look how far MTV has evolved since then!). Though the MTV ban undoubtedly limited the popularity of this song in the US, it was a huge international hit. Thirty years later, it stands the test of time of being one of the band’s greatest hits. It therefore seems like a good choice for launching the ongoing Rock & Roll Parables series at Modern Mormon Men.

I Want To Break Free
(Lyrics by John Deacon)

I want to break free
I want to break free
I want to break free from your lies
You’re so self satisfied I don’t need you
I’ve got to break free
God knows, God knows I want to break free.

I’ve fallen in love
I’ve fallen in love for the first time
And this time I know it’s for real
I’ve fallen in love, yeah
God knows, God knows I’ve fallen in love.

It’s strange but it’s true
I can’t get over the way you love me like you do
But I have to be sure
When I walk out that door
Oh how I want to be free, baby
Oh how I want to be free,
Oh how I want to break free.

But life still goes on
I can’t get used to, living without, living without,
Living without you by my side
I don’t want to live alone, hey
God knows, got to make it on my own
So baby can’t you see
I’ve got to break free.

I’ve got to break free
I want to break free, yeah
I want, I want, I want, I want to break free.

Sometimes a song is just a song.  Then again, sometimes it is a statement about something bigger.  It is pretty clear that the music video that accompanied I Want To Break Free was not making some grand statement.  It was a spoof on an English soap opera (Coronation Street) that was conceived by Roger Taylor, the band drummer.  Of the music video he said:

We had done some really serious, epic videos in the past, and we just thought we’d have some fun. We wanted people to know that we didn’t take ourselves too seriously, that we could still laugh at ourselves. I think we proved that.

The meaning behind the lyrics is much more mysterious, and speculation about what the song is really saying has been rampant for decades. The song was written by the band’s reclusive bassist, John Deacon. Deacon withdrew from the limelight after Freddie Mercury’s death. Rumor has it that he said the inspiration behind these lyrics ‘came from frustration’. He has never expounded further.
It is interesting to read various people’s interpretation of the lyrics. These theories range from this being a song about a bad relationship, the women’s movement, and the LGBT community which Freddie championed (John Deacon was then married; he and his wife are still together and have six kids). I think themes of addiction or mental illness could easily be added to this list.  We may never really know what frustrations spawned the lyrics. Undoubtedly they speak to people based on their individual circumstances.
When I listened to this in the car the other day, I was struck by thinking of this song as if it were a parable. The protagonist feels trapped and enslaved.  Though he is in some kind of a relationship, he knows it isn’t real love. Someone has opened his eyes and given him a taste of how it feels to be truly loved. But insecurity and separation anxiety mysteriously draw him back to the dark place from which he longs to escape. In the end, we are left wondering if he ever truly breaks free.
An argument could be made that this is a pretty good fit for the enslaving power of sin.  Satan convincingly makes grand promises which we eventually recognize to be lies–but only after we are trapped. The Savior and His atonement help us to realize that we don’t need Satan; that freedom is a real possibility.  To know Christ is truly to fall in love for the first time–once and for all. To feel His love in return is liberating. Yet for some unknown reason, we still feel drawn back to our old master and the old ways. To long for something is one thing, to truly do what it takes to realize that desire is another.
Most of us have felt the joy of God’s redeeming love in the past (see Alma 5:26). But like the guy in the song says: “life still goes on.” The great challenge is to retain that change of heart and fight off  the desire to return to our old master and his enslaving ways.
What is your take on this song? Share your own Rock & Roll Parables* as a guest post to make this an ongoing series at Modern Mormon Men.


* The Bible Dictionary says: “In parables divine truth is presented by comparison with material things.” We’re going with this definition of parable, so let this be your guide in your submissions. Anything is fair game except Harry Chapin’s The Cat’s In the Cradle (we have enough to feel guilty about already).
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